View Full Version : A very, very bad day

30th Jan 2003, 23:23
Many years ago I saw a short film. Please bear with me because the details are rather vague and any or all of the following may be wrong.

It was set during the Korean or Viet Nam war on an American airfield or depot. There were lines and lines of aircraft, single piston engined fighters as I remember. There was also a very large amount of stored fuel and ordnance. Somehow one of the aircraft released or fired a weapon, which hit other aircraft. These in turn "opened fire" on each other, and sooner or later, the fuel and ordnance was also part of the confalgration.

I believe this film was part of a "How not to lay out an airfield" lesson.

Can anyone shed any light on the incident?

Lu Zuckerman
30th Jan 2003, 23:32
A similar incident took place I believe on the USS Forestal. A missile was accidentally fired on the flight deck and all hell broke loose. The pilot of the plane that launched the missile is now a US Senator from Arizona.


31st Jan 2003, 01:49
Yes indeed he is...and all (or nearly all) here are hoping that he will move to...ah well, Midway island will do:yuk:

31st Jan 2003, 14:15
Wouldn't that be classed as 'Cruelty to Albatrosses?'

31st Jan 2003, 14:38
The said Senator was certainly not responsible for the missile letting loose. This was probably the first recorded instance of HERF (High Energy Radio Frequency) interference.

Below from http://liun.hektik.org/hightech/herf/RF_Ignition.html

On July 29, 1967 the USS Forrestal (CVA 59) was cruising in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of North Vietnam when it experienced the worst carrier fire since World War II. The Forrestal had several A-4 Skyhawk jets on deck, fully fueled and armed with a variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground ordinance. A Zuni rocket was accidentally launched. The missile hit a parked A-4, igniting its drop tank. The resulting fire burned for 13 hours, claimed 134 servicemen, caused $72 million in damage and required 7 months to repair the ship.

Subsequent investigation showed that the missile launch was caused by perturbation of electronic systems being subjected to a powerful electromagnetic field. One of the missile cables apparently had an improperly mounted shielded connector. When a shipboard radar illuminated it, RF voltages were developed in the degraded connector, resulting in a Zuni rocket being fired across the deck.

Of course, increasing the range between the source of the energy and the potential victim can easily reduce the risk of similar electronic upsets. This is a primary reason for locating airport radar antennas in relatively remote areas of airfields. By calculating the maximum effective radiated power of an emitter, an appropriate minimum safe range can be defined. The critical piece of information in this derivation is maximum power from the antenna.

As high power microwave (HPM) technology advances, this RF susceptibility can be exploited by subjecting victim electronic systems to dangerous electromagnetic fields in areas assumed to be safe from such signals. An HPM weapon uses a beam of high power radio frequency (RF) pulses, similar to a radar, to irradiate a target, with the goal of coupling sufficient energy into the victimís electronics, causing temporary upset or permanent damage.

31st Jan 2003, 21:40
Thanks for the replies folks. I don't think this is the incident I was thinking of - as I remember this happened on dry land. Could have WW2:confused:

Lu Zuckerman
31st Jan 2003, 23:54
About the same time frame (Vietnam conflict) a large Air Force transport landed at an air base in Vietnam and did not turn itís RADAR off. As it taxied in the RADAR painted an Army Cobra and caused all of itsí missiles to fire and it ignited the electrically fired ammunition for the gun on the Cobra. The ammo box was located under the pilot and he never knew what hit him and his gunner.

As far as the Zuni being the first to be ignited by external electrical energy I had a personal experience that predated that incident. I was a techrep on the Atlas missile system. I was standing next to the missile where it was located in the coffin complex. The RADAR was sending navigation signals to the missile and the energy over rode the grounding on the retrorockets and both of them went off at the same time. It was like having a double-barreled shotgun going off several inches from my head.


Ex Oggie
1st Feb 2003, 16:14

I can't remember much about the film that you refer to, other than it was in Vietnam, mid 60's IIRC. I can tell you however that it was still being used by the RAF as a training media as recently as a few years ago, a post on the Mil forum might get you your answer.


3rd Feb 2003, 22:47
Thanks Oggie. I think this is the film that I was thinking of. I will take your advice. I was fairly sure it was a land based incident.